You remember the last time we saw the health and hair benefits of vitamin D. It helps create strong bones and boosts our immune system. But vitamin D may also protect us against heart disease, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune problems.
As well as vitamin D is essential for hair follicle growth. Hair follicle growth happens as a preparation for the new hair cycle, so when old hair falls out, new hair is created to replace it. When you have low levels of vitamin D, it can put breaks on creating new hair. And the hair follicle is left shrunk and empty. The two most common types of hair loss – female pattern hair loss and alopecia areata – have links with vitamin D deficiency.
But all is not lost if your hair has fallen out and not growing. As there’s research indicating that correcting D levels can possibly regrow hair and revive the hair follicles.
So how do we get the vitamin D levels up? Here are three best ways to get D:
- Eating foods high in vitamin D
- Taking D supplements
1. Let’s Start With Sunlight which is the Natural Source of Vitamin D
Sunlight is everywhere on earth all year round, except maybe north and south poles where you have complete darkness for a few months. But not many people live there. Whereas it’s estimated that one billion people may be low in this vital nutrient (1). And no country is spared from the D deficiency. Be it the United States or Europe, or even sunniest places like India, Australia or the Middle East.
Why’s that? Unfortunately, the sun is often deemed as the ‘bad guy’. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Complete avoidance of all-sun exposure has put the world’s population at risk of vitamin D deficiency (2).
Of course, you don’t need to spend the whole day basking in the sun to get the D levels up.You only need a few minutes, without sunscreen, and without covering your arms or legs or both. Your skin must be exposed to direct sunlight.
A general recommendation from the expert bodies and vitamin D researchers is 10 to 30 minutes of sun between 10 am and 4 pm, two to three times a week (3). Also, the more arms, legs and body you expose to the sun, the faster you will make vitamin D. So body surface area matters.
Despite the above suggestions, there are certain factors you need to know about making vitamin D from the sun:
- The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB – which reach the earth. For making vitamin D, the skin needs UVB. But UVB is not an easy catch.
- A cloudy sky reduces UVB rays. So does smog and pollution. You need a clear sky to generate vitamin D.
- Catching the sun’s rays through the window will not help as glass blocks the UVB rays.
- Wearing sunscreen with sun protection of 15 absorbs 99% of UVB rays and thus reduces the synthesis of vitamin D by 99% (4).
- The time of day matters. The best time to catch UVB rays is between 10 am to 4 pm. This is the time when a large number of UVB photons reach the earth’s surface.
- You can’t make vitamin D through clothes. Your body – arms or legs or both must be directly exposed to sunlight.
- If you have a darker skin tone, you will need to spend a longer time in the sun. That’s because the dark melanin pigments act as a natural sunscreen and reduce skin’s production of vitamin D.
- If you live far north or south of the equator, the change in the sun’s angle during winter months make it hard for UVB rays to reach down. For almost 6 months from October to March, if you live in northern Europe, UK, Northern States, Canada, it’s recommended to supplement with vitamin D. (And if you live far south, it will be your winter months.) But, you can also eat vitamin D-rich foods to up D levels. Let’s find out what they are…
2. Foods High in Vitamin D
There aren’t tons of foods that contain vitamin D. Moreover, the amount of vitamin D in them may not be enough. So you can’t rely on them for a complete supply of your D needs. Nonetheless, eating them will help you boost the vitamin levels.
What foods are high in vitamin D?
- Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, cod, trout, mackerel and tuna
- Cod liver oil (there’s a tendency for it to go rancid quickly)
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Certain mushrooms
In some countries, common foods are fortified with D. These include: milk, yogurt, cereals and juice products. You can check the labels.
With many conditions attached to making vitamin D via sunlight or eating selected vitamin D-rich foods, the easy bet is to take D pills. Where you exactly know how much you are getting. Let’s find out more…
3. Vitamin D Supplements and How Much Do You Need
The good thing about modern science is that it has made things very convenient for us. Today you can easily get vitamin D in different doses, available at most pharmacies and supermarkets.
You can buy vitamin D online here
So how much should you take?
Well, there is no general consensus over the dose. Different countries have different recommendations. The United Kingdom government recommends intakes of 10 mcg (400 IU) per day for all adults (5). Whereas, the US government advice for adults 19 years and older is 600 IU daily, and for adults over 70 years, it is 800 IU daily (6). Although some groups such as The Endocrine Society recommends 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily to maintain optimum vitamin D levels.
If your vitamin D levels are really low, less than 12ng/mL, your doctor may prescribe you a higher dose of D. And you should always take it under the doctor’s supervision. That’s because too much vitamin D can cause harmful effects on health, which you don’t want, right? Here’s what you need to know about D toxicity…
Vitamin D Toxicity and Overdose
You can never get too much vitamin D from sunlight. The skin is a clever entity, and it limits the amount of vitamin D it makes.
But if you are taking a high dose of vitamin D supplements, it may harm you. Very high levels of vitamin D in your blood can cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, loss of appetite, excessive thirst and urination and kidney stones. Also, taking a high dose of vitamin D for a long period of time can cause calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can potentially damage the heart and the kidneys (7). It is advised to keep the daily intake below 4000 IU unless you have been asked by your doctor.
That’s all on vitamin D…Let’s do a recap of what we have seen so far in: Part 1: Vitamin D and Hair Loss Connection, and Part 2: Best Sources of Vitamin D:
- Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients for the body. It helps make strong bones, boost immunity and improve overall health.
- Vitamin D may also provide protection against chronic conditions such as: heart disease, certain cancers, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune problems.
- Vitamin D plays a role in the hair growth cycle. And lack of D can halt the anagen initiation, so no new hair will grow to replace the old ones.
- Vitamin D deficiency has links with female pattern hair loss and alopecia areata.
- The good news is, when you correct the deficiency, there are fair chances of hair regrowth.
- There are three ways you can meet the requirement of vitamin D, through sunlight, foods and pill.
- Sunlight is the natural source of D. But, there are certain criteria you must follow, such as get mid-day sun, between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Foods are not a very reliable source, but can help up your D levels. Bets sources include oily fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines.
- And lastly, the vitamin D pill is the easiest way to get vitamin D.
How do you get your requirement of vitamin D – sunlight, foods or pills or all three… Let me know in the comment box below…